Since democracy was reestablished in 1991,
power has essentially shifted between two parties: the
Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (GDP).
The Awami League won the election in 2008 and then
replaced a military-backed transitional government that
has ruled for just under two years. The Awami League has
since remained in power. In 2014, the party won a simple
victory in an election boycotted by GDP, but also won
the election in 2018, when GDP was up.
When the new government of the Awami Union took
office after the December 2008 elections, the party's
leader Sheikh Hasina returned as prime minister after
eight years in opposition. After all, GDP, which claimed
that cheating was behind the electoral victory,
participated when the new parliament came together after
the New Year.
Country facts and history of Bangladesh, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Shortly thereafter, in February 2009, a revolt broke
out among the country's semi-military border guards. At
least 74 people, mainly officers, were killed before the
revolt two days later was defeated by the army. The
aftermath caused criticism for a lack of legal certainty
due to mass trials that led to severe penalties (see
Contested war criminal tribunal
Legal security in the country - and political
influence on the judiciary - also became a loaded issue
through the War Criminal Tribunal established in March
2010 in accordance with an election promise. The purpose
of the International Criminal Tribunal
(ICT, the name despite a national
court) was to investigate crimes committed in the
context of the 1971 war of independence.
Many Bangladeshi people welcomed ICT and both the UN
and international human rights groups were initially
positive that abuses committed in connection with
independence were legally tested. The charges relate to
serious war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the
criticism soon grew to lack of transparency, hastily
delivered judgments, as well as pressures and threats
against witnesses, defense lawyers and others.
The bitter political contradictions were sharpened
when the government passed a constitutional amendment in
the summer of 2011, leaving the system of unpolitical
transitional governments before elections (see Political
system). As the opposition now boycotted almost all the
work in Parliament, the constitutional amendments were
approved with the 291 to 1 vote, but the protests became
numerous and violent in 2011 and 2012.
Many death sentences
In 2013, Prime Minister Hasina made some reservations
about finding a compromise on the government's
composition prior to the election, but both parties
basically seemed unwilling to go to the opposite party.
Prior to the elections in early 2014, many opposition
politicians were harassed. At one point, around 200 GDP
leaders were arrested in a strike against the party
headquarters in Dhaka. Almost all leaders of the
Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami had been
put out of business: they were either indicted by ICT
and detained, several of them with death sentences over
them, or had gone underground to avoid being arrested.
In addition, the party was prohibited from running for
election (see Political system).
The opposition continued to boycott parliament and
called for total boycott of the election.
The political contradictions also hardened as a
result of ICT's work. BNP and Jamaat dismissed the
tribunal itself, which they claimed was devoted to
political litigation. When the first life sentence came
in early 2013, tens of thousands of government
supporters instead demanded that all convicting
sentences give the death penalty. They gathered in what
came to be called the Shahbagh movement (after a square
in Dhaka). Parliament subsequently amended the
legislation so that ICT judgments could be appealed,
which happened. Jamaat's Deputy Secretary General Abdul
Kader Mullah, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in
February 2013, had the sentence changed by the Supreme
Court in September of that year and in December he
became the first ICT accused to be executed. Since then,
a number of death sentences have been issued by ICT and
several have also been enforced. Political system).
The Awami League continues to rule
The execution of Kader Mullah at the end of 2013 was
carried out just weeks before the parliamentary
elections announced by the government, despite fierce
protests. Violence with a political background claimed
more than 500 people's lives in 2013, according to the
reputed Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar.
More than 24,000 were injured in the unrest which was
significantly worse than last year.
In the parliamentary elections held on January 5,
2014, the Awami League won a walking victory because of
the opposition boycott. Just over half of the 300
elective seats were added without elections as the
challenger candidates were missing. In the new
government, Prime Minister Hasina took care of the
Defense, Home and Foreign Affairs posts.
On January 5, 2015, on the day one year after the
election, GDP leader Khaleda Zia announced
demonstrations demanding new elections. As a result, the
police banned all public protest actions indefinitely
and locked Zia in her party headquarters. Zia then urged
its followers to block the accessibility of roads,
railways and rivers in order to cripple important social
The violence escalated with many deaths as a result.
By the time the protests had been going on for almost
two months, about 100 people had been killed in street
protests and other violence. At the same time, a
corruption trial was underway against Zia, and at the
end of February, the police issued an arrest warrant for
her. Zia was arrested, charged with murder, explosion
and vandalism, and was charged the following year.
In February 2018, Zia was sentenced to five years in
prison for corruption in connection with the transfer of
a large sum from a Saudi bank to her orphanage fund (Zia
Orphanage Trust) in 1991. In the fall of that year, she
was sentenced to another five years for the same crime
as well seven years for corruption. Khaleda's eldest son
Tarique Rahman was sentenced in February 2018 to ten
years in prison and fines. Rahman, who lives in exile in
London, took over as chairman of GDP.
Militant Islamism on the rise
At the same time as the political violence, another
wave of violence swept across the country, targeting
different kinds of minorities, advocates of a secular
society, critics of violent Islamism, intellectuals and
foreign nationals. Between 2013 and 2017, dozens of
murders of Hindus, Shia Muslims, secular bloggers,
academics, LGBT activists and Christians were committed.
It is not clear which groups are behind the violence,
but the think tank International Crisis Group (ICG)
writes that the jihadist landscape in Bangladesh is
dominated by two groups: Jamaat-ul Mujahideen
Bangladesh (JMB) and
Ansarul Islam. The Islamist group
Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT)
was banned in May 2015. The Sunni extremist Islamic
State (IS) has on several occasions committed murder and
terrorist acts in Bangladesh, but the Dhaka government
emphasizes each time that the perpetrators instead are
domestic Islamist groups or political opposition
In June 2016, more than 12,000 people, including many
opposition supporters, were arrested when the government
ordered a week-long police operation to stop the
killing. Since then, the level of violence has dropped
somewhat. However, the Muslim political opposition
criticized the police effort for actually targeting them
instead of the actual perpetrators in the form of
criminal gangs and militant Islamist groups. According
to the ICG think tank, jihadists have benefited from the
fierce political power struggle between the Awami League
and GDP, as this has overshadowed the fight against
terrorists and given the extremist groups more room than
they otherwise would have.
Hostage frame in diplomatic district
In 2015 and the first half of 2016, at least 50
terrorist attacks were carried out by IS or IS
Bangladesh branch Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh. Among other
things, an Italian relief worker was murdered in Dhaka's
diplomatic district and a Japanese citizen. No one has
been arrested for the murders of both foreigners.
In July 2016, a ten-hour hostage frame occurred at a
cafe in the Gulshan district of Dhaka, where foreign
diplomats and aid workers live. 22 people were killed:
four Bangladeshi and 18 foreigners. Six perpetrators
were killed by police and one arrested. According to an
investigation, the deed was carried out by several
coordinated domestic groups, including Ansarul Islam,
but also the IS took on the mass murder.
The Awami Association is re-elected
With the opposition heavily plunged, the government
announced the autumn 2018 parliamentary elections until
December 30 of the same year. The BNP decided to stand
this time, while Jamaat-e-Islami was forbidden to
participate. The electoral movement, as is usually the
case in Bangladesh, became troubled and violent with at
least 17 dead.
The Awami Federation won a devastating victory and
together with allied parties received 96 percent of the
mandate at stake. The opposition with GDP at the head
accused the government of extensive electoral fraud and
demanded re-election, something the Election Commission
rejected. In January 2019, a new Awami Federation
government joined Sheikh Hasina as prime minister.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
FACTS - POLITICS
Ghana Prajatantri Bangladesh / People's Republic of
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Abdul Hamid (2013–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (2009–)
Most important parties with mandates in the
Awami Association 257, parties allied with Awami
Association 31, GDP 6, parties allied with GDP 2,
Independent 3, vacant 1 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
Awami Association 235, Jatiya Party 36, Independent
15, Others 14 (2014) 1
close to 80% in the parliamentary elections in
December 2018, about 22% in the parliamentary elections
in January 2014
2022 parliamentary elections
- The election was boycotted by GDP and other